Battle against COVID-19 not yet lost despite overcrowding of patients in hospitals, DOH says

Robie de Guzman   •   March 31, 2021   •   391

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has not yet lost its battle against COVID-19 despite the surge in cases and near-critical hospital capacity especially in Metro Manila, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday.

“Hindi naman talaga tayo talo, the health system is not collapsing. It’s just that we’re trying to manage the challenge of the surge,” Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said during the Laging Handa public briefing.

Vega issued the statement in response to the remark of the Philippine Hospital Association that hospitals are already “overwhelmed and overrun” in view of the uptick in COVID-19 cases due to their depleted resources and lack in manpower.

Several hospitals in Quezon City, Makati, Taguig, and Navotas have earlier reported high critical situation in the use of their intensive care units (ICU).

Other hospitals in Metro Manila have also reached moderate risk situation in terms of their bed capacity for COVID-19 patients.

The severity of the situation and overworked hospital staff have prompted the Philippine Hospital Association to say that the country has already lost in the fight against the pandemic.

But Vega said the country’s health system is not yet collapsing amid the alarming rise in coronavirus cases.

In response to the situation, he said hospitals are already re-allocating their beds to accommodate more COVID-19 patients.

More healthcare workers from provinces with low COVID-19 incidence have also been deployed in the NCR Plus bubble.

Medical adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19 Dr. Ted Herbosa also does not subscribe to the notion that the country has lost the fight as hospitals still continue to manage patients and have not shut their doors.

“Hindi naman, kasi gumagana pa ang mga ospital. When you say collapsed, ang tawag namin diyan sa disaster medicine ay ‘functional collapse’ — hindi na magamot ang mga tao, mamamatay na yung di dapat mamatay,” he said.

He, however, admitted that many hospitals in Metro Manila are experiencing overcrowding of COVID-19 patients and this is the reason why some patients are being sent for admission in hospitals outside the NCR Plus bubble.

“So as of now, ang nangyayari is we are at a period of surge capacity, over capacity yung ating health system,” he said.

Metro Manila and four nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal – collectively called as NCR Plus bubble – have been placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in a bid to arrest the surge in COVID-19 cases.

The ECQ period is from March 29 to April 4.

The DOH earlier recommended a one-week extension of the ECQ to see a decline in the number of cases and its effect on the healthcare utilization rate.

The Inter-Agency Task Force is set to meet on Saturday to discuss the proposal. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

DTI: Halos 200-libong manggagawa, balik-trabaho sa ilalim ng GCQ

Robie de Guzman   •   May 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Maaari nang makabalik sa trabaho ang nasa 200-libong empleyado matapos na ibalik sa general community quarantine “with heightened restrictions” ang National Capital Region (NCR) at mga karatig-lalawigan.

Ayon kay Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, magiging daan ang paglipat sa GCQ ng NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, at Laguna – tinatawag na NCR Plus – upang mapababa ang bilang ng mga nawalan ng trabaho noong kasagsagan ng enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

“As we further open the economy, we are expecting to bring back 200,000 to 300,000 jobs to lessen the number workers displaced since the start of the ECQ,” ani Lopez.

Noong nasa ilalim ng ECQ ang NCR Plus, umabot sa 1.5 milyon ang bilang ng mga Pilipino nawalan ng trabaho dahil sa coronavirus pandemic.

Nabawasan ito at naging isang milyon noong ipinatupad ang modified ECQ.

Ayon kay Lopez, sa ngayon ay aabot pa sa 700-libong manggagawa ang hindi pa rin nakakabalik sa trabaho dahil sa limitadong operasyon ng ilang establisimyento gaya ng mga restaurant, at barbershop. – RRD (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Joan Nano)

DOH says no to proposed vaccine pass for access to indoor establishments

Robie de Guzman   •   May 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said it is not recommending the proposal to use a “vaccine pass” that would allow persons already inoculated against COVID-19 to have access to business establishments.

“Hindi po kami sang-ayon sa ganyang pagpapalakad o kaya ay magkaron tayo ng mga ganyang proseso,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergere said in a virtual press briefing.

Vergeire said the DOH is not in favor of the proposal as there is no sufficient evidence yet to say that a person who has already received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine can no longer be infected or spread the virus.

She added that initial studies have shown that the currently available vaccines against coronavirus cannot adequately block the virus.

“Wala pa ho tayong sufficient evidence to say na ang isang taong with complete doses of vaccines already would have that kind of immunity, na hindi na siya magkakaroon ng sakit o makakapanghawa dahil nga po dito sa mga paunang mga ebidensiya na ibinigay sa atin, hindi po nakakapag-block ng transmission adequately ang mga bakuna na mayroon tayo ngayon,” she said.

“As we have said, ang pinaka-assurance o benepisyong nakukuha natin ngayon sa vaccines is reducing severe infections and hospitalization. As to preventing mild to moderate infections, hindi pa rin po tayo nagbibigay ng ganyang assurance sa ating mga kababayan,” she added.

Vergeire also reminded the public, especially those who have completed the two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, to still observe health protocols against COVID-19.

“Even if you are fully vaccinated, meaning you have completed two doses, kailangan pa rin natin magpatupad ng minimum health protocols,” she said.

“Itong sinasabing vaccine pass ay hindi pa rin mairerekomenda ng Kagawaran ng Kalusugan,” she added.

No need for vital signs screening before COVID-19 vaccination, DOH says

Robie de Guzman   •   May 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The vital signs screening will no longer be included in the vaccination process against COVID-19 as part of efforts to expedite the immunization in the country, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.

In an online press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they have already issued guidelines regarding the matter after DOH advisors and vaccination experts approved the recommendation from the Philippine Heart Association and the Philippine Society of Hypertension.

She said the new policy was approved after a DOH time and motion study found that walk-in vaccine recipients and the vital signs screening were causing long queues in vaccination sites.

“Meron na ngayong patakaran here in Metro Manila ang ating mga local government, only those master listed should go to the vaccination site kaya lang ngayon siyempre ang mga kababayan natin, very eager sila na magpabakuna na kahit hindi sila yung scheduled for that day, they go to the vaccination site, so that’s one,” Vergeire said.

“Pangalawa, nakita natin na there are certain processes within our system na nakakatagal talaga and one of those would be the vital signs screening, yung pag-BP (blood pressure), pagkuha ng temperature, pagkuha ng pulse rate, ng heart rate,” she added.

Under the new guidelines, Vergeire said that healthcare workers only need to closely monitor individuals with established hypertension or organ damage prior to their vaccination.

“Ang kailangan lang nating bantayan, especially for the blood pressure, would be yung blood pressure na 180/120 or more. Pero yung iba, kahit tumataas yung presyon, maaari pa rin naman natin silang bakunahan,” she said.

“Naglagay rin tayo sa guidelines natin na there should be a separate lane para sa mga taong gusto nating obserbahan because of their established history ng kaniang mga sakit para hindi po sila nakakadagdag doon sa pila,” she added.

Vergeire also said that the DOH is eyeing to expand vaccination sites to help speed up the rollout.

The health official also noted that the public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines has increased citing a survey they conducted in March.

Vergeire said the poll showed that 75 percent of respondents said that they are willing to get immunized if a vaccine was available, and 85.8 percent said they would get inoculated if they knew that the vaccines were safe and effective.

“Nakita po natin yung pagtaas talaga ng kumpiyansa ng ating mga kababayan noong nakita nilang marami na ring nababakunahan,” she said.

The Philippines has so far administered over 2.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with over 500,000 who are fully vaccinated.

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